Hours and hours later and I still can't make heads or tails of what I saw at the end of the Bulls-Celtics game. If you've read Caleb's recap of the game and/or saw the game, then you'll know that there was a lot going on in this game. Both teams were playing extremely physical with each other (with Noah and Garnett going at it as per usual), Deng left the game in the third with a hamstring injury, Kirk Hinrich hit a clutch jumper (you read that correctly), and Marco Belinelli made a circus shot to win the game that left Hubie Brown confused.
I'll cover just about everything else in the following grades. So onwards we move:
Noah versus Garnett continues to be a fun matchup to watch every time these two teams play each other. I don't know what it is about the matchup that brings out some of the best in Noah. Ok, I do. The fact that they can't stand each other.
Noah was a beast tonight. Defensively he was so close to Garnett the only way he could have defended KG any closer was being inside KG's jersey at the same time. And it worked. Noah got Garnett out of rhythm early in this game and it clearly affected Garnett even on put backs and those few instances when he was taking open jumpers. Noah also managed to keep Garnett out of the paint as he forced his way to 12 very physical defensive rebounds.
On offense, Noah was a juggernaut tonight as he pushed his way around the post when he had the ball. On the night, Noah 6-of-11 from the floor and 4-of-9 in the paint. Noah may have only recorded one offensive rebound, but I can live with that if he's imposing his will in the paint like he did tonight.
Lastly, major grade boost for Noah for the passes he made throughout the game especially the beauties he gave to Jimmy Butler in overtime. Noah continues to be one of the best passing bigs in the game. For a team that currently lacks a point guard with any creativity (as far as we know… #FreeMarquisTeague) his passing is a huge plus.
I think the stats to the left more than speak for themselves, Boozer had another great night, especially on the boards. Of course, it should go without saying that he was sloppy on defense again.
Offensively, Boozer wasn't as efficient tonight as he has been in recent games. He shot below 50% on the night and really struggled towards the end of the third quarter and throughout the fourth quarter as he forced up poor shots and missed good shots pretty badly. However, I can forgive Boozer tonight given his recent performances.
I can also forgive Boozer because of his rebounding performance. There were definitely several factors that helped Boozer record 20 boards tonight. I believe most of the credit has to go to the fact that Brandon Bass played. While Jared Sullinger played a big role in tonight's game, Boozer was often found working against Bass, a guy not known for being able to rebound that well. Any time the ball went up, Boozer easily pushed his way around for positioning tonight which gave him great opportunities for boards. Another big factor was Boozer's penchant for getting long rebounds. I'm sure I'm wrong when I say this, but I felt as if the number of long rebounds tonight were far greater than I've seen in a while (perhaps because of tip outs). Regardless, whenever the ball was tipped out from under the basket, Boozer was almost always the guy who ended up with the ball (if not Rajon Rondo).
Regardless of how Boozer was able to get the rebounds tonight, it was a huge performance on his part. If he keeps this up I may stop calling for the front office to use the amnesty clause on him.
Deng came into tonight's game as a game-time decision for a hamstring injury. The entire night he looked a little slower than usual and a bit off. Naturally his game suffered as a result. Deng was unable to get a shot going tonight, was slow getting to the basket, couldn't rebound, and was a bit slower on defense (though he was still effective when guarding Paul Pierce).
Things got especially bad for Deng when he aggravated the hamstring injury in the third quarter. At the time of the injury, Deng was hobbling on the court barely able to walk and had to ask to be taken off. He went into the locker room and did not return to the game. The extent of his injury is currently unknown. We will keep you updated with any news.
Because of the Deng injury, Hamilton's minutes restriction was lifted. While I know the minutes restriction is in place to protect Hamilton, I've questioned why he's been on the bench so much considering the production he's been providing Chicago. In the game against Toronto he made six of nine shots. The efficiency continued (to a degree) tonight as Hamilton went 7 of 15 from the floor. From that aspect, it was a good game.
While Hamilton was efficient tonight shooting wise, he wasn't the best when it came to taking care of the ball as he had seven turnovers on the night. While a couple of them can be taken away because the referees didn't call blatant fouls, the fact of the matter is that Hamilton could have seriously hurt the team tonight. Lucky for him the Celtics were unable to do anything with the opportunities. Still, huge grade drop for Hamilton.
While I would like to give Hinrich an "A" for hitting the clutch shot, I can't overlook an entire game's worth of material.
Hinrich was better tonight when it came to shooting. While he took few shots- thankfully- he managed to knock down the majority of them, including the clutch jumper. Outside of that though, he did little else. Throughout the game, the Bulls tried to run pick-and-rolls with him and Boozer and they repeatedly failed because Hinrich wouldn't make the pass/couldn't make the pass after moving poorly.
Defensively Hinrich was so-so tonight. He did the right thing by going under screens all night but Rondo just kept draining the midrange jumpers, especially towards the end. Outside of that, Hinrich was able to get some defensive stops but also allowed guys to get by him fairly easily.
The bench, for the most part, was mediocre. Tonight, Taj Gibson continued to struggle as he failed to make any major stops on defense and failed to rebound the ball well. Given his history in both categories, I'm sure this is simply a funk for Gibson, however I'd like to see him break out of it very soon. Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli were almost identical tonight. Both of them were mediocre shooting from the floor (of course Belinelli hit the luckiest game winner I've seen in quite some time). Offensively, neither of them could run a pick and role (again… #FreeMarquisTeague) and, defensively, both were an absolute abomination.
That brings me to Jimmy Butler who filled in for Deng very nicely tonight. I'm not going to say Jimmy Butler was phenomenal on offense. He wasn't. However, Butler did come up with big moves without the ball which is something not many players can do well. His movement without the ball tonight opened up quite a few shots for him including some easy layups and dunks towards the end. Butler also continued to rebound pretty well and was a defensive guru as usual. With Deng potentially sidelined for a week (maybe more), tonight's play by Butler gives me a little more peace of mind.
Defensively, the Bulls were, once again, as sound as any team can be. However, the lack of offensive creativity and execution continues to hurt Chicago. What really hurts though is watching a team try to execute pick and rolls with Boozer with guys who clearly don't know how to run it (Hinrich, Robinson, Belinelli). I've said it throughout the post and I'll say it again, #FreeMarquisTeague. I understand Thibodeau's reluctance to play a rookie, however, for a team that is ranked as one of the worst and most inefficient offensive teams in the league, I'm sure he couldn't hurt the team that badly.
I digress though. For the game, Thibodeau did pretty well tonight. But again, I hope we see some fresh offense soon.
It was a close win but Chicago pulled it off against a team they don't like. While i'm not happy with individual performances, the team as a unit performed pretty well. The grade drop is a result of the team not running the offense well tonight and allowing themselves to get bullied.
What I Expect For Next Time:
- Offensive creativity. Aka- Marquis Teague. With Rose sidelines, Teague is potentially the fastest player the to give the Chicago offense some life. And even if he can't do that, at least he'll be able to run a pick-and-roll correctly.
As usual, Bulls-Celtics was a great game and I hope you all enjoyed it. Chicago will play again tonight, January 19th, at home against the Memphis Grizzlies in what should be a fierce defensive battle. We hope you're all looking forward to it!
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